Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 37.djvu/78

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

himself to hold the swarming enemy in check, until the cattle might be herded across the Nottoway to some point of safety. 'Twas a great feat, accomplished with consummate skill and judgment, and who of us can ever forget the great shout that went up from the gaunt veterans in the trenches, to whom it meant returning health and vigor and renewed strength to fight on for the cause that grew even closer to their hearts.

In his official report, Hampton says (September 27th, 1864): "Major Venable, of my staff, was ordered to superintend this movement of the cattle, and, with Major Ryal, Provost Marshal, who had been very efficient in conducting it up to this time, to place them quickly across the Nottoway River at Freeman's Ford. These officers discharged their duty admirably, and the successful manner in which the cattle were brought off is due very much to their zeal and enterprise."

On October 27th, in the great action at Hatcher's Run, in which Grant received another lesson that we "still could sting," and sting sharply, Venable, while carrying an important message from gallant "Jimmy" Deering (one of Lee's "Boy-Brigadiers") to Hampton, in making his way through the heavily-wooded country, rode headlong into the enemy's pickets and was promptly captured. He was at once carried before the officer commanding that part of the picket line, who, very improperly, threatened him with direful bodily harm when Venable flatly refused to answer a single one of his questions. He would not even tell him to whose command he belonged. The officer became more irate, and more insistent that he should tell him at once the position and number of troops engaged and other like information. Venable, who never "set his life at a pin's fee" in any matter involving soldiery honor, and who could be, on occasion, as scornful as he was fearless, blazed out upon the Federal commander with such scathing words as the latter probably never forgot. In his official report of the part borne by his command in this battle, Brigadier-General Trios. V. Eagan, U. S. V. (on whose line he was captured) has but little to say of the incident, but that little "speaks volumes" to those who knew Venable, and who can "read between the lines:" "Here my skirmishers captured Major Venable, formerly Inspector-Gen-